TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A former Iranian president on Friday warned the United States not to escalate its role in the Islamic nation’s disputed nuclear program, saying he hoped the issue would be solved through negotiations.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told a crowd in Tehran during a Friday prayer ceremony that “wise people” should use peaceful measures to solve the problem, according to state-run radio, which broadcast the speech.
“We expect the United States would have learned enough not to enter another conflict in order to disturb security in our region. We (hope) to be able to solve this regional and world dispute in a proper way through negotiation,” said Rafsanjani, Iran’s president in the 1990s who also heads the powerful Expediency Council, which arbitrates between the parliament and the ruling hierarchy.
Rafsanjani’s comments come on the eve of Iran launching a series of large-scale military exercises across the country. A military spokesman said the exercises were part of the country’s new “defensive doctrine” and reflected the current level of tension in the Middle East.
Tehran is facing heightened pressure over its disputed nuclear program. A U.N. Security Council resolution urges it to halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31, but Iran has rejected the resolution and instead has said it will expand enrichment.
A U.S. State Department official said Thursday that Washington intends to act next month to have the United Nations impose penalties on Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment, an important step in making nuclear weapons. U.S. officials did not specify the proposed punishment.
Tehran contends its enrichment and other nuclear programs are civilian in nature, and has said it would reply on Aug. 22 to a package of incentives offered by the U.S. and Europe aimed at enticing it to suspend enrichment.
Iran also is under international scrutiny because of its support for the militant group Hezbollah. Tehran has denied accusations it is arming and training Hezbollah guerillas.